The late actor, who died at age 69 in 2016, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2005 before filming began for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Diary excerpts published in The Guardian on Saturday, September 24, shed more light on Rickman’s decision to continue with the production despite his private health struggles.
In a January 2006 entry, Rickman described his experience preparing for a surgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after doctors recommended his entire prostate be removed as part of his cancer treatment. “Pre-op. This is like a film set. Nothing seems real,” the Love Actually star wrote. “Remembering nothing but with that painkiller high in the recovery room. Attentive, caring people.”
Weeks after his operation, the Die Hard star made his decision to remain part of the Harry Potter universe. “Finally, yes to HP 5. The sensation is neither up nor down,” he wrote in January 2006. “The argument that wins is the one that says: ‘See it through. It’s your story.'”
Rickman portrayed Severus Snape, the Hogwarts potions professor turned headmaster, in all eight of the Harry Potter movies, the last of which premiered in 2011. An entry written shortly after the second movie’s release hinted that the British actor didn’t plan on staying in the franchise forever.
“Talking to [agent] Paul Lyon-Maris about HP exit, which he thinks will happen,” Rickman wrote in an entry dated December 2002. “But here we are in the project-collision area again. Reiterating no more HP. They don’t want to hear it.”
The Tony nominee detailed several conversations with author J.K. Rowling in his diary throughout the years, sharing his thoughts on his character’s arc after reading the seventh and final book in her series. “Snape dies heroically, Potter describes him to his children as one of the bravest men he ever knew and calls his son Albus Severus,” Rickman wrote in 2007. “This was a genuine rite of passage. One small piece of information from Jo Rowling seven years ago – Snape loved Lily – gave me a cliff edge to hang on to.”
At the beginning of his Harry Potter journey, Rickman revealed that Rowling, now 57, “nervously” gave him “a few glimpses of Snape’s background” to help him get in touch with the character. “Talking to her is talking to someone who lives these stories, not invents them,” he noted in 2000.
More excerpts from Rickman’s journal will be unveiled in Madly Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman. The collection is set to hit shelves in October.
The Alice in Wonderland star passed away in January 2016, only revealing his terminal cancer diagnosis to those closest to him. At the time, several of his Harry Potter costars paid tribute to the late great actor via social media.
“He was one of the first of the adults on Potter to treat me like a peer rather than a child,” Daniel Radcliffe reflected in a Facebook post, calling Rickman “one of the greatest actors I will ever work with.”
Rowling issued her own thoughtful statement at the time, tweeting: “There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificent actor & a wonderful man. My thoughts are with [his wife] Rima and the rest of Alan’s family. We have all lost a great talent. They have lost part of their hearts.”